A Compromised Roast Chicken

How many times have you heard the words, “Marriage is about compromise”? It’s an over-used statement that’s tossed out by an exasperated marriage counselor trying to solve a bickering couple’s problems, or by a sheepish husband explaining to his buddies why he bought his wife yet another pair of Louboutin pumps instead of season tickets to his favorite team, or even by a tipsy wife gossiping to her girlfriends about how she dons a French maid outfit in exchange for a 15-minute foot rub and a week off from dishwashing duty.

Marital compromise manifests itself differently for every couple. Those in bi-cultural marriages like myself may find much of it taking place in the kitchen.

Asians like rice. That’s not a stereotype. It’s a simple fact. I NEED to eat rice at least 4 times a week, preferably sushi grade: white, round, shiny, and slightly sticky so that it forms light balls on the tip of my chopsticks. In comparison, my husband would hardly notice if blight destroyed all short grain rice. When we met he could correctly identify only one type; it came in an orange box and was ready in minutes.

I like fish. He hates it. So I don’t cook it in the house (at least while he’s home). I love dried squid, but am banished to the balcony to eat my pungent snack in shame, far removed from his olfactory sensitivities.

Over our 11 years together, my husband’s palate has grown accustomed to—even fond of—Asian flavors. He likes soy sauce, rice vinegar and tofu almost as much as I do, but still craves the occasional PB&J, bowl of chicken noodle soup (ramen doesn’t count) and Italian sub.

The roast chicken below started out as a way to sneak a little Asian-ness into a traditional western family dinner. The spiced brine makes the chicken so flavorful that I’m more than content to leave the chopsticks in the drawer for the night. On the other side of the marital divide, my hubby’s so satisfied with his meat and potatoes that I can usually get a 15-minute foot rub from him… sans further compromise.

2 Tbs. Szechuan peppercorns
1 tsp. black peppercorns
1 tsp. coriander seeds
5 whole cloves
2 Tbs. salt
2 tsp. sugar
3 cups water: one hot, 2 cold
Rind of 1 lemon
10 sprigs of cilantro
1 shallot, sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 whole chicken, halved

  • To make the brine toast the first four ingredients in a small skillet. Toss lightly over medium heat for three minutes or until fragrant and slightly darker.
  • Dissolve salt and sugar in one cup of hot water (I like to put the cup in the microwave for 1½ minutes). Add the toasted spices. Steep (sit and soak) for five minutes.
  • Combine the lemon rind, cilantro, shallot and garlic in a deep pot or baking dish (you can use anything large and deep enough to submerge two chicken halves in).
  • Halve the chicken by cutting down both sides of the breastplate. Once the front is halved, flip the chicken over and press down to flatten. Cut along both sides of the backbone, removing it completely.
  • Place the chicken in the deep dish. Add the water with the spices plus enough cold water to submerge both halves. Cover and refrigerate for at least six hours.
  • After 6-8 hours remove the chicken from the brine. Pat dry and allow chicken to come up to room temperature.
  • Heat a skillet and oil over medium high heat. Sear chicken on all sides, 6-7 minutes total. Transfer to a 400°F oven. Roast for 25 minutes or until the internal temperature reads 160°F (check the temperature in the dense thigh rather than the breast). Flip the chicken skin-side-up for the final 5 minutes.
  • Once cooked, remove the chicken from the oven. If your family isn’t mobbing the kitchen like a pack of hungry zombies I recommend resting the chicken for 5-10 minutes.
  • The beauty of a roast chicken is that it can really be served with anything. I like it with pan roasted potatoes and spinach that’s been quickly tossed in a hot pan with garlic and a squeeze of lemon.

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